Hint: It’s not hiring. And it’s not a marketing platform subscription.
At some point in the journey to maturity, established small businesses – whether through a natural progression to maintain steady growth, the presence of increased demands from investors/advisors, or due to the arrival of competition in the area or online who poach customers – make a decision to get serious about marketing.
I’ve seen a variety of situations, but one scenario in particular seems more prevalent among the small, established businesses that are considered the “backbone” of the country’s economy. These organizations are painstakingly built and stabilized over time, brick by precious brick, by one or two owners who’ve known no other business, career, or industry in their lives (or very little). The company, regardless of its size, age, industry, or level of success, has made a few passes at marketing throughout its history – dabbling a little here, a little there . . . eeeking out an email, a webinar, a newsletter, or blog post every now and then, as available bandwidth or employee know-how allows. Marketing tactics and execution tend to be spread across multiple individuals, designating anyone who knows anything about any marketing responsible by way of the “Your-Idea-You-Own-It” policy.
Eventually though, as demand on the business increases, the resources helping with marketing have less and less bandwidth to tend to it. Thus, marketing falls by the wayside, leaving a healthy “List of Marketing To-Do’s” in its wake. What happens next is that the decision maker, who’s achieved growth by careful product development and strategic hiring, makes the decision (perhaps reluctantly) to hire a marketing person OR buy a fancy marketing tool – because All These Things need to be done. Be careful of the marketing tools – these guys are great at what they do when they walk in your doors. What they don’t always make clear is the setup process, time involved, and potential complexity of use. There may even be hidden costs associated with the tool (see Salesforce Marketing Cloud) that are not at first obvious.
On its face, having a large Marketing Tasks Wish List to tackle is an easy problem to solve; however, it’s made complicated if the primary decision maker becomes so focused on getting The Marketing List done that he or she loses sight of why it needs doing. If you’re a business owner with a long marketing task wish list, before tackling that list, ask yourself, “Will the Completed Marketing List drive revenue?” It might, depending on what the tasks are, but it probably won’t; it all depends on what’s on The List, the strategy to address it, the goals you need to reach, and the level of preparedness to do so.
What Should a Business Owner Do When Considering a Marketing Investment?
How do you start spending slow and investing wisely in marketing? Should you hire someone to help? If so, what type of person should you hire? What do you want them to do? What do you need them to do? (Because it’s two different things, I assure you, the wants and needs of the business owner.) How much should you pay them? Do you hire a full-time resource or a part-time resource? These are all questions to answer before you even begin to write a job description.
I recommend business owners hire a marketing consultant first to examine the goals and resources, among other things, and bring to light what type of strategy will be most effective to reach the goals – not to mention assess the readiness to pull it off. Oftentimes these small businesses find themselves poorly positioned to do the kind of marketing they need to reach their goals, or to even see significant enough growth or ROI. This is where a little marketing forensics is necessary before dedicating the time and expense to hire a full-time marketing employee.
In part II, I’ll explain a little about marketing forensics in addition to making some other recommendations for what you can do now, and in the future, to get your marketing off the ground.